Words have their own space, which sometimes overlies ours, but such overlaps do not necessarily
happen, or at least, do not always happen. Some of us assume that we, the human beings, are keen to understand everything in terms of binary opposites. There have also-been claims that we fail to.
understand things that defy all kinds of categorization. Of course, from our everyday life-and
experience, we are aware that we feel very uneasy when a phenomenon refuses to fall into any known and neat pattern or is beyond our conventional classifications. But looking at words has taught us that the same element could simultaneously, or at different times, i.e. in different contexts, fall in several classes — grammatical, semantic, functional.
In fact, each word kindles a kind of imagination in our mind — lights thousand lamps, as it were. Each word hides a story beneath the face it wears. Or, better say — each one of these apparently innocent formations bubbles with a lot of tale that it could tell us. When you wish to confront them looking for those hidden senses, they would show you certain lanes and abysses which would lead to some other words — all looking, at least in terms of their senses, similar but are still somewhere differing in meaning. When you attempt to probe into any one of the others in this set, you realize that each. one of these others is further linked to yet others in a chained manner. It is this network of chains that seemed ever elusive and impossible to track down until George Miller came into the picture: But his was still an English sky, and it took many monsoons before the rainbow which we see today emerged, when one began to look at different kinds of skies, or rather, at many skip together — plotting one on the other, which enabled the differences and similarities appear clearly.
What does this sky gazing tell us? To many of us, who would not give up-easily, this way of looking
at things reveal newer and newer sites of human mind. In trying to understand how our mind works,
words thus provide a powerful tool. But we do not want this, whatever we are doing as a part of
word net activity, to begin with and end in the study of words. These studies should lead us to some
other area of knowledge - especially to that science which enhances our knowledge (or, ignorance) of how human mind works. If human languages are ‘species générale’, then looking at relations among entities, rather than entities in themselves, will tell us that we have crossed the threshold of the world of grammar and lexicon, and are now well-entrenched into the mysterious (and often, enigmatic) universe of semantics.
The personal lesson that I have learnt is that when you are trying to understand, — not: merely words-which are a piece of earth (each because of their rooted ness to a given land and culture), but what gets reflected or mirrored through them - an entire time - open-ended.,and. resilient, with an inexplicable supple-a vast expanse of space, or a set of legends, folklore and. myths,-nothing that we study in all social sciences and humanities put together seem to go waste. We begin to, discover newer and newer connections. In this context, let me recount my recent experience in ‘stumbling on a story on the net written by an eleven year old Laura Beeston from Winnipeg, Manitoba ‘in, Canada.
What she thought as to the origin of sky, I was amazed to see the kind of ideas our children are-capable of having deep in their unconsciousness, which they could-reveal if challenged. What makes: ‘human creativity unique, or makes us qualify for the epithets like ‘species Specific’, is that we are ever open to generating new meanings and relationships among things that we have always known to be-in certain specific ways.
Laura had understood, or at least, imagined words and their meanings differently. In other words, she was redefining many words here. Let me quote her story to exemplify what I mean. Reading this piece makes the point obvious. (Let us ignore the proper names she had chosen.) Here’s how it goes where the underscoring (of the novel ideas and expressions) is mine.
The aestheticians would of course discover many more qualities in the story such as who the
protagonist was, how Ojibwa was an anti-hero, and Pateka was a truly liberated person, or even the originality of this modern ‘Origin’-myth. But notice how the following five word-sets were
conceptualised differently, which had made all the difference to her creative piece: (i) earth, sky,
moon, sun, (ii) live, die, kill, be furious, (iii) love, respect, fear (iv) g0, go up, come down, (v) break, dart, throw and (vi) sad, be sorry, be ashamed, be mad, Joy, be overjoyed. Many of these do not qualify to be synsets in the WordNet tradition, and yet, are intimately related to one another to be called word sets of a kind. The entire story practically hinges on the re-interpretations as to the above relationships-some antonymic, some hyponymic or even hypernymic and others, holonymic.
I guess the time when we would be able to delve deeper and deeper into the universe of words -
thrown by our own culture to shine all day and night in our skies, and when intricate interweaving of concepts employed by the most sophisticated and careful to the least prepared but instant story-tellers and poets of our times would be possible to capture in formulaic fashion as an extension of word net research activities, I shall have a greater satisfaction. The satisfaction will not be because the whole meaning universe will be possible to describe in terms of formulae, but because it will probably take us Closer to understand how human mind works, Until then, here we are, with a challenging set of conference papers - all carefully crafted and chosen with equal care by a double-blind method, and we hope to be able to bring out the fruits (Mind my - Words!) of some of the exciting research activities going on in so many countries - to be read, discussed and debated over the week beginning January 21, 2002. We must appreciate the gesture of the international wordnet community for having chosen India and CIIL, Mysore as the venue of the first ever GWN meet. In the years to come, let the acronym draw more and more scholars currently in pursuit of understanding cognition come together in future years on other platforms. As for now,
enjoy the wide variety of topics being discussed under the un-common noun, wordnet.
WORDNETS ON A GLOBAL SCALE
When George Miller began an experiment designed to test a model of human semantic memory, he
did not foresee the scope and the impact of the resulting database, WordNet. Today, we cannot tell
whether the experiment proved the semantic network theory to be wrong or right. But we can say that the WordNet model has become a new kind of lexicography. Looking back at a 15 year-old
experiment, some aspects of its development raise profound questions. Why were glosses added to the synsets if the words' meanings were supposed to be defined entirely by their relations to other words and synsets? Why are there distinct synsets that contain identical words? Why are there sense
numbers? And so forth. Should we be concerned with these questions? Probably not. Questions will continue to be asked and nobody can tell what kinds of answers future developments will hold. What we do know now is that WordNet has spawned completely new fields of research and stimulated many others, with the result that some old questions have been answered and new ones have arisen. We fell strongly that, thanks to WordNet, we now have a fantastic Opportunity to actually test some fascinating aspects about language, culture and thought. And perhaps we should add to this list teaching, technology and even politics.
WordNet has not only migrated across the oceans but beyond into subcultures and specialized
domains, and has become WordNet, a common noun. We now have numerous word nets in different
languages; more are being built today. Even better, most of these word nets are interconnected so that they can be compared, can inform each other, and can bring people of different backgrounds and cultures together. Sapir and Whorf could only dream about the kind of power we have when we
merely push a few buttons. We can compare not only the lexicons of languages all over the world, but also a general vocabulary with those of sub-languages, genres, chat-groups, and age groups. Such information can teach us about differences in culture and language systems. We can compare
experiments on classification and word sense disambiguation across languages and language types.
We are able to use one language to process another.
Communication via the web will be greatly helped by word nets, and web communication in turn will aid the development of word nets. The Web is a huge empirical and experimental body of naturally occurring linguistic material. Connecting language data from the web with word nets in many languages will be a big challenge for the coming decade. On the one hand, it will bring context to the abstract concepts in word nets and, on the other hand, it will assist the development of the semantic web in a linguistic sense, respecting differences in culture and lowering the threshold for billions of people in the world that do not speak English.
The first International WordNet Conference provides the opportunity for reflection on the range and
depth of WordNet's impact. The conference presents reports on the construction of new word nets in a variety of languages and language families and contributions on the methodology for building
word nets. There are papers on sublanguages and domains and reports on the usage of word nets for
word sense disambiguation and for classification. Other contributions center on formal aspects of the network structure, ontological structure, and on fundamental aspects of lexical semantic relations.
There are practical papers on WordNet databases and on the visualization and navigation of word nets. Applications-oriented contributions tell about the use of word nets for teaching, text mining, web navigation and text evaluation.
This conference aims to bring together these many different interests and to generate new ideas and
thoughts. We sincerely hope that it will further strengthen the globalisation of lexical and cultural
individualisation and, not the least, will increase global respect for the diversity of human language.
On behalf of the Global WordNet Association
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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